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Ultraman (ウルトラマン, Urutoraman) is a Japanese tokusatsu television series that first aired in 1966 and is a follow-up to the television series Ultra Q, though not technically a sequel or spin-off. The show was produced by the Tsuburaya Productions, and was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967, with a total of 39 episodes (40, counting the pre-premiere special that aired on July 10, 1966).

This series can be watched on Shout TV, Roku, Pluto, Prime Video, Tubi, and Vudu.

Production

Development

Science Special Search Party Bemular

The project proposal and concept art for Science Special Search Party: Bemular.

Ultraman's central characters were created by Eiji Tsuburaya from Tsuburaya Productions, a pioneer in special effects who was responsible for bringing Godzilla to life in 1954. The show's predecessor was a series called Ultra Q, a black and white series with 28 episodes very much like the original Outer Limits, although some compare it to today's The X-Files or The Twilight Zone.

In March 1965, TBS producer Takashi Kakoi,[1] inspired by the four early screening episodes of Ultra Q, commissioned Tsuburaya Productions to plan a sequel to Ultra Q. This commission was due to the positive reaction from Kakoi's son and his teenage friends to the pilot episodes. Tetsuo Kinjo, the head of planning and scriptwriter at Tsuburaya Productions, took on this commission, attempting to revive the previously unsuccessful WoO project, which had been a collaboration with Fuji Television.[2] Due to design shortcomings, Kinjo invited Masahiro Yamada, a poet and scriptwriter who had participated in the "Ultra Q" project, to explore new directions for the plan.[3][4][5]

On September 30, 1965, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company was confirmed as the sponsor of Ultra Q, with the show scheduled to begin airing on January 2, 1966, at 11 AM on Sunday mornings. Consequently, TBS officially ordered the follow-up program to Ultra Q, which was set to air on July 7 after the conclusion of all 28 episodes. At that time, TBS put forth four requirements: "consideration of color production for overseas sales," "establishment of an official agency to naturally unfold the plot by handling monster incidents," "a just kaiju capable of fighting and standing on equal footing with other kaiju," and "retention of at least one regular actor from Ultra Q in the sequel."[3]

Considering that in Ultra Q, the protagonists are civilians, their encounters with kaiju often seem unnatural. To address this issue, the production team decided to introduce a specialized team dedicated to handling monster-related incidents as the main characters. Based on the concept of "friendly aliens cooperating with humans" from WOO, Tetsuo Kinjo formulated the "Science Special Search Party: Bemular (科学特捜隊ベムラー, Kagaku Tokusō-tai - Bemurā)" project.[6] In this proposal, he described a "Science Special Investigation Team Japan Branch, headquartered in Paris," dedicated to investigating supernatural and strange incidents beyond the police's capabilities, in cooperation with an unidentified just kaiju, Bemular. Bemular could merge with Member Sakomizu to operate on Earth, with the ability to change size freely, from human size to 50 meters tall, to protect the planet. However, at that time, the specific relationship between Sakomizu and Bemular was still unclear. Ultimately, based on these settings, the project proposal, the "Bemular Story Plan Collection" written by Masahiro Yamada, and the sample script "Birth of Bemular" were all completed.[3][7][8]

Unlike WOO, Bemular is a strong and just warrior. Designed by Akira Watanabe, Bemular's appearance was inspired by the Japanese mythical creature Karasu Tengu, featuring wings and an elegant form. However, some pointed out that Bemular's design made it difficult to distinguish him from enemy kaiju and lacked the characteristics of a heroic figure.[5][9]

Science Special Search Party Redman

The project proposal and concept art for Science Special Search Party: Redman.[10][11]

In January 1966, Ultra Q achieved unexpectedly high ratings, which invigorated the planning meetings between Tsuburaya Productions and TBS. However, there was significant debate over whether the hero should be a kaiju, with concerns that viewers might struggle to distinguish between good and evil kaiju. Allegedly, Eiji Tsuburaya ultimately suggested that the hero should have a more just image, leading to the abandonment of Bemular's original design in favor of a humanoid appearance. After these discussions, the "Science Special Search Party : Redman (科学特捜隊レッドマン, Kagaku Tokusō-tai - Reddoman)" project was finalized.[3]

In this project, the hero transformed from a kaiju into a humanoid alien. This hero was conceived as a wandering alien from a planet destroyed by an invasion from Planet X. Upon arriving on Earth, this alien inadvertently caused a plane crash that resulted in the death of SSSP member Sakomizu. To take responsibility for Sakomizu's death, he revived Sakomizu and operated on Earth. A key difference from the final version is that Sakomizu himself had already died in the accident at that time, and his soul had become Redman. Additionally, Sakomizu had a girlfriend named Hikari Yuki, who became a popular singer. This version also featured the "Flash Beam," an early version of the Beta Capsule, which is the transformation device used by Ultraman.[3][7]

Early Ultraman concept art

Early Ultraman concept art by Tohl Narita.[12][13][14][15]

Sculptor Tohl Narita, who had previously worked on art design for Toho theater films, participated in the design work. He was responsible for the Redman designs, and during this phase, the names and personalities of the characters were mostly finalized, with a total of twelve scripts completed.[9] The "Final Agreement Report on Redman," released on February 15th, explicitly outlined several important points, including inheriting Ultra Q and advancing the kaiju theme, depicting the characteristics and terror of kaiju, maintaining simplicity in the storyline, highlighting the confrontations between Redman and kaiju as the main focus, and considering internationalization for overseas distribution. The scripts based on the basic settings from the "Base Story Plan Collection," finalized by February 5th, were gradually completed.[16]

However, Susumu Ishikawa, originally slated to play Ide, was forced to withdraw due to contractual issues after shooting promotional photos and part of the first episode. He was promptly replaced by Masanari Nihei. Narita proposed a sharp and cosmic design for Redman, while Kakoi suggested a metallic color scheme. The TBS planning department also suggested considering international markets and requested a design featuring an "expressionless iron mask." After multiple trials and failures, Narita decided to simplify Redman completely, drawing inspiration from Greek concepts of cosmos (order and harmony) after comprehensive consideration. This image starkly contrasted with the kaijus designed for Ultra Q. Initially, Narita did not create a design sketch but instead, with the assistance of sculptor Akira Sasaki, guided the creation of the mask prototype, while personally crafting the statue. This image eventually evolved into Ultraman, with Sasaki using it as the basis for crafting the mask and costume.[16][5]

Filming

EarlyUltramanSuit

Ultraman's first suit; notice the lack of a Color Timer.[17]

In early March, the design of the hero for Redman was finalized, and filming for the first season began in late March. Eiji Tsuburaya felt that "16mm film quality was insufficient for shooting special effects scenes," so he opted to use 35mm film, similar to movies, and then reduced it to 16mm for broadcasting. While this method ensured high quality for the TV production, the expensive film costs became a budgetary pressure point. Due to the expense of color film, only the composite shots used 35mm to reduce costs and minimize the unnatural look of synthesized scenes; the rest was shot in 16mm. However, due to lack of experience with color filming, extensive adjustments and reshoots were necessary during production.[18]

The scripts produced under the title Redman extended only to episode 7, with temporary titles used for secrecy starting from episode 4. Starting from episode 8, the series was officially titled Ultraman, a decision made on March 10th due to its uniqueness and strong impact. On March 22nd, the copyright office approved the registration of the show. On April 1st, during the first press conference held at the Tokyo Art Center, footage was shown featuring Ultraman, SSSP members, Alien Baltan, and Neronga.[16]

During the production of Ultraman, the production team was divided into four groups: Group A, supervised by Toshihiro Iijima,[19] produced 3 episodes; Group B, led by Samaji Nonagase, produced 4 episodes; Group C, under the direction of Kazuho Mitsuta,[20] produced 4 episodes; and Group D, supervised by Hajime Tsuburaya,[21] produced 2 episodes. To improve budget efficiency, Group A integrated the staff for both the main story and special effects into a single team to produce their episodes. However, filming originally scheduled to start on February 25th was delayed until mid-March, with the goal of delivering the episodes to TBS by May 20th.[16]

Early in the filming process, the production team was concerned that Ultraman appeared too invincible, potentially reducing viewer suspense and excitement. As a result, at the last moment, they introduced a three-minute warning light called the "Color Timer." Additionally, the Beta Capsule was decided to be introduced to enhance the protagonist's capabilities.[22][23]

0710 ultraman

"The Birth of Ultraman" performance scene.

Due to the need for reshoots, rental of studios and filming equipment costs, script fees, actor salaries, and staff expenses, the direct production cost averaged between 4.5 to 4.7 million yen, placing both the budget and timeline under considerable strain. Because episode 28 of Ultra Q, titled "Open Up!!," had content that was considered too distinctive, it was decided during an April meeting to suspend airing, thereby moving up the premiere date of Ultraman to July 10th. With production schedules already tight, Kakoi decided to hold a commemorative event titled "The Birth of Ultraman" at the Suginami Public Hall Hall on July 9th. This televised special aimed to introduce Ultraman to the audience and was recorded and edited into a special program broadcast on July 10th.[16][24][25]

The first episode aired as planned on July 17th, and the B-class filming by Nogase's team resumed in late July. Despite subsequent arrangements being very tight, the series production proceeded meticulously in both its main story and special effects aspects.[26][27]

Suitmation

Ultraman Bin Furuya

Ultraman's suit actor is played by Bin Furuya.[28]

The Ultraman series pioneered the use of various monster costumes, known as "kaiju" in Japan, before other series like "Kamen Rider" and "Himitsu Sentai Gorenger" adopted similar approaches. The principal kaiju roles were played by renowned monster suit actor Haruo Nakajima, who originally portrayed Godzilla. Another notable Toho actor, Satoshi "Bin" Furuya, was selected to play Ultraman due to his tall stature and ideal proportions.[29][30][31]

Nakajima, with his background in outdoor sports and martial arts, influenced the decision that Ultraman should not appear alien by using earth-bound martial arts techniques. Consequently, Ultraman's fighting style became a blend of grappling, Greco-Roman wrestling, and various Japanese martial arts, evolving throughout the series.

Often, costumes of famous monsters such as Godzilla (as Jirahs in "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base") and Baragon were recycled and modified, sometimes with nothing more than spray paint, often while the actor was still wearing them. Nakajima humorously noted that the staggering gait of some monsters he portrayed was due more to the fumes he had to endure than to his acting. Some quadrupedal monster costumes could not be shown fully because Nakajima’s legs would drag on the ground, which was necessary for maintaining balance in the cumbersome outfits. Additionally, the high cost of repairing the scale model cities and landscapes used for battle scenes required careful planning and economy of movement.[32]

Impact

Pic

Ultraman vs. kaiju

Following its broadcast, this series, along with contemporaries like Ambassador Magma, pioneered the genre of color television tokusatsu dramas.[33] Due to its extensive special effects involving large-scale alien creatures, the production process was challenging, making such large-scale tokusatsu TV dramas unique worldwide at the time. The revenue from merchandise sales, such as toys, allocated as substantial copyright royalties, also stabilized the operations of Tsuburaya Productions.

Despite TBS's desire to continue the program, negotiations between Tsuburaya and the network occurred multiple times. However, due to the inability to complete production weekly, even at a loss, by early 1967, the decision was made to cancel the fourth season's order after the third season's 39 episodes aired, despite maintaining high ratings.

After its debut, Ultraman quickly surpassed its predecessor Ultra Q in popularity, with the first episode achieving a 34.4% viewership rating. The series averaged a 36.8% rating, peaking at 42.8%. Even after the end of its original broadcast, its popularity remained strong, with initial reruns maintaining an average rating of over 18%. Since the 1970s, Ultraman has been broadcast in over 100 countries and regions.

In the 21st century, over half a century since its first television airing, Ultraman continues to pride itself on its high visibility, transcending generations and age groups. Commercially, Ultraman has been highly successful, with merchandise related to the series or its characters extending beyond toys to encompass various lifestyle products. It stands as one of the foundational works in the Ultraman series.[34][35][36]

Synopsis

The Science Special Search Party (SSSP), also known as the Science Patrol, is responsible for investigating mysteries and unexplained phenomena throughout the world. But human technology cannot always stand up to every danger, especially giant monsters and villainous aliens from across the stars.

When the going gets tough, they must rely on Ultraman: an otherworldly being who has chosen a human host in SSSP member Shin Hayata, in order to best protect the innocent. With the stakes at their highest and their relationship kept a secret from all but a trusted few, both man and Ultraman must learn how to work with each other if they are to save the planet from the ever-encroaching forces of doom.[37]

Characters

SSSP

Ultras

Kaiju

Cast

English Dub

  • Peter Fernandez
  • Corrine Orr
  • Earl Hammond

Music

Opening Theme
  • Ultraman no Uta (ウルトラマンの歌, Urutoraman no Uta, lit. "Song of Ultraman")
    • Lyrics: Kyoichi Azuma
    • Composition: Kunio Miyauchi
    • Artist: Misuzu Children's Choral Group

Home Media

In 2006, BCI/Eclipse officially released Ultraman on DVD under license from then-rightsholder Chaiyo Productions. These releases featured the original Japanese soundtrack and the English dub. When Navarre folded BCI/Eclipse in December 2008, the series was shuffled over to Navarre's other home video label, Mill Creek Entertainment. In June 2009, Mill Creek re-released the complete series set on September 29, 2009, in a four-disc set with the same special features.

In Japan, there have been numerous releases in numerous home video formats over the last 25 years (from VHS to DVD) on several labels, including Bandai's various home video divisions, including Bandai Visual. On April 2013, Tsuburaya held a press conference announcing the new Ultraman Series show and character, Ultraman Ginga, where they also announced that the original 1966 show will be given an HD remaster treatment in Japan.

On July 2013, Tsuburaya released an HD transfer of Ultraman on Blu-ray titled Ultraman HD Remaster 2.0 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions. Tsuburaya plans to release the series on three separate box sets, each containing 13 episodes. The first box set was released on July 10, 2013, the second on October 25, 2013 and the third and final set on January 29, 2014.

A Malaysian DVD Boxset was released by VGB Network in 2013, containing Malaysian subtitles and English subtitles. Ultraman Memorial Box features four episodes in each DVD, and the last features three episodes. Ultraman Blu-ray Box I features episodes 1-13, Box II features episodes 14-26, and Box III features episodes 27-29.

Mill Creek Entertainment also released the series under Blu-ray and Steelbook editions in 2019, along with Ultra Q. The company would also release an exclusive Blu-ray release titled The Birth of Ultraman Collection on Ultraman Day (July 10), 2020, which features The Birth of Ultraman pre-premiere special, along with select episodes (1, 2, 19, 26-27, 33, and 37) of the series, in both Japanese and English dubbed audio.

Gallery

External Links

References

  1. https://m-78.jp/news/post-4955
  2. https://ascii.jp/elem/000/001/273/1273700/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Ultra Tokusatsu PERFECT MOOK vol. 02: Ultraman, pg 4
  4. https://ciatr.jp/topics/309724
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 https://www.nippon.com/ja/views/b04006/
  6. https://cocreco.kodansha.co.jp/telemaga/news/YZSAr/
  7. 7.0 7.1 http://canbara1954.com/kaiju_16.html
  8. https://www.oricon.co.jp/special/52402/
  9. 9.0 9.1 https://middle-edge.jp/articles/sGags
  10. http://grammasa.blog27.fc2.com/blog-entry-878.html
  11. https://ameblo.jp/addicto/entry-11428006077.html
  12. https://www.pen-online.jp/article/004435.html
  13. https://ameblo.jp/addicto/entry-11428006077.html
  14. https://mainichi.jp/articles/20191128/pls/00m/020/255000c
  15. https://www.adfwebmagazine.jp/art/surrealist-painting-influences-and-iterations-in-japan/
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Ultra Tokusatsu Perfect Mook Vol.02: Ultraman pg 5
  17. http://blog.livedoor.jp/tokusatsu_action/archives/1278639.html
  18. https://weekly.ascii.jp/elem/000/001/400/1400519/2/
  19. https://m-78.jp/news/post-6103
  20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkztRXw3PL8
  21. https://www.sankei.com/article/20230810-XPCOWPEHTJPFPCZYBCGPTWV3WQ/
  22. https://www.huffingtonpost.jp/entry/color-timer_jp_627da329e4b06ce0a1b45570
  23. https://shin-ultraman.jp/about/
  24. https://news.line.me/detail/oa-penonline/osj4b9v7p8z7?mediadetail=1
  25. https://m-78.jp/0710_ultraman/
  26. https://cocreco.kodansha.co.jp/telemaga/news/24rFb
  27. https://magmix.jp/post/100194
  28. https://tokusatsunetwork.com/2022/02/tamashii-nation-interview-with-original-ultraman-suit-actor-bin-furuya/
  29. https://wpb.shueisha.co.jp/news/entertainment/2014/10/14/37170/
  30. https://shinsho-plus.shueisha.co.jp/column/ウルトラマン不滅の10大決戦%e3%80%80完全解説/10993
  31. https://www.taiseicoins.com/magazine/1908/
  32. https://news.mynavi.jp/article/20201124-1524669/4
  33. https://tezukaosamu.net/jp/mushi/entry/25622.html
  34. https://slowinternet.jp/article/ultraman01/
  35. https://www.nippon.com/ja/japan-topics/b02509/
  36. https://www.sanspo.com/article/20230927-A5OFE65MIFKDRNBABU7SGR7UQM/
  37. https://tsuburaya-prod.com/business/titlelist/3664

Productions
Showa Series Ultra Q | Ultraman | Ultraseven | Return of Ultraman | Ultraman Ace | Ultraman Taro | Ultraman Leo | Ultraman 80
Heisei Series Ultraman Tiga | Ultraman Dyna | Ultraman Gaia | Ultraman Cosmos | Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy | Ultraman Nexus | Ultraman Max | Ultraman Mebius | Ultraseven X | Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle | Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey | Neo Ultra Q | Ultraman Ginga | Ultraman Ginga S | Ultraman X | Ultraman Orb | Ultraman Geed | Ultraman R/B
Reiwa Series Ultraman Taiga | Ultraman Z | Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga | Ultraman Decker | Ultraman Blazar | Ultraman Arc
Outside of Japan Ultraman: The Adventure Begins | Ultraman: Towards the Future | Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero | Ultraman: Rising
Original Video and TV Special Ultra Fight | Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider | Ultra Super Fight | Ultraman Nice | Heisei Ultraseven | Ultraman Neos | Ultraman: Super Fighter Legend | Ultra Idemitsujin | Ultra Zone
Showa Movies Ultraman: Monster Movie Feature | Ultraman, Ultraseven: Great Violent Monster Fight | Return of Ultraman | The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. The Monster Army | Ultraman (1979) | Ultraman: Great Monster Decisive Battle | Return of Ultraman: MAT Arrow 1 Takeoff Order | Ultraman ZOFFY: Ultra Warriors vs. the Giant Monster Army | Ultraman Story
Heisei Movies Ultra Q The Movie | Revive! Ultraman | Ultraman Zearth | Ultraman Zearth 2 | Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna | Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna, & Ultraman Gaia | Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey | Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact | Ultraman Cosmos 2 | New Century Ultraman Legend | Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice | New Century 2003 Ultraman Legend | ULTRAMAN (2004) | Ultraman Mebius & the Ultra Brothers | Super 8 Ultra Brothers | Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie | Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial | Ultraman Saga | Ultraman Ginga Theater Special | Ultraman Ginga Theater Special: Battle Royale | Ultraman Ginga S The Movie | Ultraman X The Movie | Ultraman Orb The Movie | Ultraman Geed The Movie | Ultraman R/B The Movie
Reiwa Movies Ultraman Taiga The Movie | Ultraman Trigger: Episode Z | Shin Ultraman | Ultraman Decker Finale | Ultraman Blazar The Movie
Spin-Offs Andro Melos | Ultraman Zearth: Parody Chapter | Revival of the Ancient Giant | The Return of Hanejiro | Gaia Again | Ultra Q Kaiju Legend | Ultraman Kaiju Legend | Hikari Saga | Armored Darkness | Ghost Rebirth | Ultraman Zero vs. Darklops Zero | Q - Door to Another Dimension | Killer the Beatstar | Ultra Zero Fight | Ultra Fight Victory | Ultraman Orb THE ORIGIN SAGA | Ultra Fight Orb | New Generation Heroes | The Absolute Conspiracy | Sevenger Fight | The Struggle of Special Section 3 | The Destined Crossroad | Continued Ultra Fight | Shin Ultra Fight | Return of Special Section 3 | Ultraman Regulos | Ultraman Regulos: First Mission | Ultraseven IF Story | SKaRD Break Room
Rebroadcast Shows Ultraman Retsuden | New Ultraman Retsuden | Ultraman Zero: The Chronicle | Ultraman Orb: The Chronicle | Ultraman New Generation Chronicle | Ultraman Chronicle: ZERO & GEED | Ultraman Chronicle Z: Heroes' Odyssey | Ultraman Chronicle D | Ultraman New Generation Stars
Informational Ultraman The Prime | ULTRAMAN ARCHIVES | Ultra Science Fantasy Hour | Ultra Fight Club | UlSummer Information Station | Ultra Information Center | Professor Teruaki's "Blazar Kaiju Academy" | Super Power! Ultra Encyclopedia! | Ultra Construction Tour | THE ORIGIN OF ULTRAMAN | Ultraman 4K Discovery
Docudramas Fly in the Sea Breeze! Ultraman | The Men Who Made Ultraman | My Beloved Ultraseven | The Man Who Wanted to be Ultraman | The Kaiju Club | The Two Ultramen
Other Series and Movies Kaiju Booska | Captain Ultra | Mighty Jack | Fight! Mighty Jack | Operation: Mystery | Chibira-kun | Mirrorman | Redman | Triple Fighter | Emergency Directive 10-4·10-10 | Iron King | Horror Theater Unbalance | Fireman | Jumborg Ace | Mirror Fight | Jumborg Ace & Giant | Mars Men | Army of the Apes | Pro-Wres no Hoshi Azteckaiser | The Last Dinosaur | Dinosaur Expedition Born Free | Dinosaur Great War Izenborg | Star Wolf | Dinosaur Squadron Koseidon | Anime-chan | Gridman the Hyper Agent | Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad | Moon Spiral | Cyber Beauties Telomere | Booska! Booska!! | Otasuke Girl | Mysterious Incident Special Investigation Team SRI | Mirrorman REFLEX | Bio Planet WoO | Operation: Mystery - Second File | Mirror Fight 2012 | Operation: Mystery - Mystery File | Gridknight Fight
Anime The☆Ultraman | Ultraman Kids | Ultraman Graffiti: Wild! Ultra Country | Ultraman: Super Fighter Legend | Ultra Nyan | Ultra Nyan 2: The Great Happy Operation | Ultraman M78 Theater Love & Peace | Gridman the Hyper Agent: boys invent great hero | The・Ultraman: Jackal vs. Ultraman | Kaiju Sakaba Kanpai! | Kaiju Girls | SSSS.GRIDMAN | ULTRAMAN (2019) | Kaiju Step Wandabada | SSSS.DYNAZENON | KAIJU DECODE | GRIDMAN UNIVERSE
Outlaw Content Space Warriors 2000 | Project Ultraman | Ultraman The Animation | Ultraman: A Little Journey on Earth | Fun... English with Ultraman | Young Ultraman | Ultraman Big Transformation | Sinic Q | Red Jade | Dragon Force: So Long Ultraman | Dragon Force: Rise of Ultraman
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